Kahane Cooperman (’80) moves from school publication to ‘The Daily Show’

By Katie Seevers

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Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” has fake correspondents, guests, political mockery, expletives and one Whitman alum.

Cooperman strikes a pose on the iconic desk. Photo courtesy Kahane Cooperman.

Kahane Cooperman (’80) was the first female editor-in-chief of the Black & White while at Whitman, and went on to earn a degree in English at the University of Chicago. After graduating in 1984, Cooperman got her Masters of Fine Arts in film at Columbia University and  started at the Daily Show in 1996 as a segment producer. Since then she’s risen through the ranks, and today she’s the co-executive producer and winner of several Emmys.

Cooperman’s job is to keep the production of the “Daily Show” running smoothly, whether she’s attending meetings or managing employees.

“In order to get a show like this on the air 161 times a year, four times a week, 40-something weeks of the year, you have to have a very well-oiled machine,” she said. “I’m one of the people who keeps that machine oiled and makes sure all of these moving parts keep on going.”

The show’s responsiveness to current events and politics cause headlines and stories to constantly evolve, she said. Cooperman meets with Jon Stewart every morning to plan the day’s schedule and stories, and decide what has to get done to move production forward. While some headlines and stories can be prepared in a single day, other pieces, like reports from mock foreign correspondents, can take weeks to put together.

Despite the show’s comedic nature, Cooperman said its preparation isn’t always so lighthearted.

“Everyone always assumes that it’s just a giant laugh riot here 24/7, and maybe compared to some places it is, but we have a big job to do,” Cooperman said. “There’s a huge amount of pressure on a lot of people, and everyone works really, really hard.”

Cooperman didn’t always know she wanted to work in comedy, or even in television. Initially she thought she was interested in pursuing straight journalism.

“At the time, it was almost trendy to want to do journalism,” she said. “Watergate hadn’t happened that long ago, and it was a very intriguing profession to go into.”

Cooperman pursued her passion for journalism in high school, and became the first female editor-in-chief of the Black & White.

“I wasn’t coming at it from a particularly feminist point of view — I just felt very proud being editor,” she said. “Whitman was great. There were very clichéd cliques. I was firmly in the middle between nerd and cool.”

Her interest in journalism shifted when she attended the University of Chicago, where she became interested in theater and film. After college, she pursued her interest at Columbia University’s film school, where she produced documentaries. She then worked for ten weeks at a reality show called “Lost and Found” before getting a job as a segment producer at the Daily Show.

“In this business, it’s a lot of word of mouth, and if you’re a hard worker, one job leads to the next,” she said. “After that one ten-week job, I had one other very short-term job and then my very next job was on this new show called the Daily Show. Obviously, the show sort of exceeded everyone’s expectations.”

Cooperman still looks back on Whitman as the starting point of her career and success.

“I think being part of a newspaper laid a great foundation for me—it’s a group of people all working together towards one thing,” she said. “It really did start with the Black & White.”

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